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Are Americans losing their faith?

What's one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. society? According to a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday, it could be the religiously unaffiliated.

Over a five-year period, the number of Americans who described themselves as not identifying with any religion rose by a third to 19.6 percent of the U.S. public -- nearly one in five Americans this year.

That change is even more pronounced among those under the age of 30, which reached an all-time high for Pew polling at one-third of respondents. By contrast, only about 10 percent of those 65 and older say they are religiously unaffiliated.

And while nearly three out of four Americans still identify themselves as Christians -- 73 percent this year, down 5 points from 78 percent in 2007 -- fewer than half identify themselves as Protestants, with that number now at 48 percent, 5 points down from '07. Catholics were fairly steady going from 23 percent of the population to 22 percent over the five-year period, while Mormons (2 percent) and Orthodox (1 percent) were unchanged. Other faiths were a combined 6 percent, though that is a 50 percent increase from the 4 percent in that category in '07.

In fact, the long-term trends, according to the polls, show that most of the decline is coming from white Protestant ranks. Catholics were at 26 percent of the population in 1972 and were at 25 percent in 2010. Protestants fell from 62 percent in '72 to 51 percent on '10, while those with no affiliation rose from 7 percent to 18 percent over that 38-year period.

Meanwhile, 3.3 percent this year described themselves as agnostic, up from 2.1 percent five years ago, and 2.4 percent said they were atheists, up from 1.6 percent.

About 13.9 percent of Americans this year said they had no particular religion, up from 11.6 percent in '07. That doesn't mean they have no faith -- two-thirds of the group believe in God, though less than half are certain of it -- and a third say religion is at least somewhat important to them, with 5 percent of the group saying they attend religious services weekly. About 42 percent of the unaffiliated say they are neither religious nor spiritual, but 55 percent describe themselves as either religious (18 percent) or spiritual but not religious (37 percent), while more than one in five (21 percent) prays every day.

Meanwhile, a declining share of the U.S. population says it never doubts the existence of God, dropping to 80 percent this year from 88 percent in 1987. Two-thirds of Americans see religion losing influence on society, with 49 percent viewing that as a bad thing for the nation.

Is America losing its faith? A simple question, but the answer isn't. And in the end, only time will tell.

Comments

billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

A good thing, in my opinion. As superstition yields to reason, mythology to science society will improve. People need to understand that there is no mystical being who is going to help them out of difficult situations. It takes intelligence and diligence to find solutions to problems and implement them, not just 'putting it in god's hands.'

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

Another atheist who thinks that he/she is more intelligent than "believers."

Tell me, what if you are wrong?

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Ahh. Pascal's Wager, huh? Well what if you are wrong and the Mulsims are right? Or the Hindus? Or the Krishnas? Or the whatevers?

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

You still didn't answer my question, or respond to my first statement.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Sorry. I thought I did. There is no "what if" scenario that's reasonable. That's why I re-framed the question. What if the Muslims are right, or the Hindus, etc. They are equally illogical and demonstrably false. In fact, you and I probably agree where 99% of all religions are concerned in that they are false. The difference between the atheist and the Christian is the atheist just believes on less god than the Christian. And the atheist rejects the Christian god for the many of the same reasons the Christian rejects the gods of other religions.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

You still aren't answering my question. It is your opinion that no "what if" scenario is reasonable, but that doesn't mean it is fact. I didn't ask if you thought it was illogical or unreasonable for a higher power to exist. I asked what does it mean for you if a higher power does exist.

I personally think it is more reasonable to believe that our existence is not happenstance, rather part of a divine plan.

I understand why Christians don't believe the teachings of other religions, just as atheists don't believe the teachings of all religions. I'm not that dense.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

bbob, you know even Richard Dawkins accepts Pascal's wager to 1%. Meaning he says never say never. Your first statement doesn't preclude an intelligent design in the universe. But you knew that, right. So apparently you might be one of Dawkins adherents. I agree with your premise totally. You realize you scare the bejeezuz out of folks when you make those utterances though.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

"Mystical Being"? "It takes intelligence and diligence to find solutions to problems and implement them, not just 'putting it in god's hands.'"

Not so fast Billyboob, God actually stores up sound wisdom for the upright. It's not just giving our problems to him, we ask him for his guidance and wisdom because his ways are not our ways. His ways are perfect. Proverbs and James are wonderful books of the Bible that talk about the wisdom of God and how you can attain it for yourself. Here is a great scriputre: Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Using the bible to validate the bible is a logical fallacy.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

Yeah, whatever. God still loves you though.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

An excellent, well-reasoned rebuttal.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

Why, thank you, O enlightened one!

And, for the record, I wasn't using the bible to validate itself; I was using the bible to show you that Chrisitans don't just put our problems in His hands, we also listen for a still, small voice to guide us. He gives us wisdom for our problems and he also comforts us while we go through them.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

How long have you been hearing voices?

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

The closer I become with God, the more I hear them. The voices are very comforting and they remind me just how much he loves me!

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floorpuncher 1 year, 6 months ago

I think a lot of people are surprised to see numbers like this but the truth is that this number is growing. Even here in Albany, our group, Albany Georgia Atheists, has over 50 people that make up our membership and we are continually growing. Considering how prevalent religion is in this area, this number is significant and I think illustrates the point of this article perfectly. These are just the people who have found us and who feel the need to network with others like them. This is a trend that can be seen in almost every corner of the country as local groups like Albany Georgia Atheists pop up almost everywhere.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

The less religion the better. Note, however, there are a lot of right wing kooks in Congress trying to replace the constitution with the bible. What knuckledragging bible schoolers!

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Trustbuster 1 year, 6 months ago

My response to the so-called "free thinkers" or atheists is that you cannot divorce religion from society. I suggest that you read the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." Read also the First Amendment to the US Constitution. You will not find the separation of church and state stated in that amendment. The 1917 Mexican Constitution and the old Bolshevik Constitution provided a separation of church and state. In both constitutions the govt. officials used the law to remove religion from society and even persecute those who openly professed a faith. All of this accomplished under the guise of the separation of church and state! So my fellow citizens who are free thinkers or atheists that welcome a decline of religious faith think about what happened during the radical phase of the French Revolution when the govt. secularized society. It created chaos and social upheavals. Hitler also welcomed a decline of religion in German society in order to promote the cult of Nazism. For Hitler and the Nazis God's laws did not apply giving them a license to make war and genocide upon their neighbors.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually Hitler was a Christian. On October 24, 1933, in a speech in Berlin, Hitler said: "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: "I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work." In 1938, he quoted those same words in a Reichstag speech.

What was your point again?

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Trustbuster 1 year, 6 months ago

First of all Hitler was not a practicing Christian and believed he was amoral. This means above God's laws. Remember the German people saluted him as the savior of the state. Nazism was a religious cult supporting statism. The Nazi ideology promoted Darwinism which rejected the basic tenets of Creationism in order to explain their racial superiority. Hitler said "Your children now belongs to us." The 1933 Berlin speech really referred to worship of the state which began under Bismarck's Kulturkampf. Kulturekampf sought to elevated the state above the Catholic Church therefore promoting secularism similar to the French revolutionaries.

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Jacob 1 year, 6 months ago

If your point was that some people are delusional and use religion as an excuse for atrocity, you were spot on. If your point was that because Adolph represents all Christians, you missed the mark by quite a ways..

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

No. The point is that Truthseeker was attempting make the argument that removing religion from society allowed someone like Hitler to come to power, when in fact that is blatantly false.

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Jacob 1 year, 6 months ago

the comment was directed to you, not he.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Yes, Jacob. I know. That's why I responded to your remark.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

"Are Americans losing their faith?" Well duh, what a stupid question. Pretty soon it will be illegal to declare yourself a Chrisitian. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

And that is based on what, Outtahere? There is a church on nearly every block around here. On any given Sunday morning there are many religious programs on television and radio - that's in addition to channels dedicated to religious programming 24 hours a day. This town is also home to a church that has made tens of millions of dollars producing religious movies released in theaters all over the country. So please tell me how you figure that it will soon be illegal to declare yourself a Christian.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

Because of people like you Billybob. People like you who blantantly disrespect God by calling him a "mystical being" and who detest our faith. Faith is not logical, in fact it is the opposite. Buildings mean nothing unless there is God appointed leadership following Biblical principles with personal relationships with God. Also, unless these churches are reaching out to the lost, well then, they are not following God's commandments.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't detest your faith. In fact, I was a devout Christian for most of my life. I have spent a great deal of time studying the bible. But eventually, after a lot or research and contemplation, I could no longer hold on to those beliefs. There is simply no evidence that Christianity is true. In fact, there is a mountain of evidence that it is not. I do agree though, that faith is the opposite of logic. It is a very close cousin of delusion. Delusion being a false belief strongly held in the face of invalidating evidence.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

I am sorry to hear that you chose to turn away from God. I have a hard time believing you were "devout", however. I don't want to go back and forth with you becasue you are entitled to your beliefs. Personally, I don't see how you could make it through life without him, but maybe you haven't endured hardships that caused you to depend on him. If your heart ever softens, he will take you back with open arms.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Millions and millions of people make it through life without a belief in god including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs among many, many others. How do you make it through life without Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, Kali, etc.?

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

Yes, but where will they go when their life ends? Where will you go?

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

They won't go anywhere. Where were you in 1850? How about 1904? You weren't anywhere. You didn't exist. That's the same state you'll be in after you die.

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Clyde 1 year, 6 months ago

Not believing in God is easy, you can't prove a negative so there's no work to do. If you believe there's no God it means you can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it should make you want to be more thoughtful. You need to try to treat people right the first time around. This is America and it's your right to have faith in God or to believe that all goes black when your heart stops and that's it. It's everyones command as Christians to love you and to not judge you, no matter what, and there's nothing you will ever do to stop us, nor will I ever try to stop you. :)

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

Of course you can prove a negative. If you are carrying a box and tell me it contains $1000 cash and I challenge your claim, you can open the box and show me. Now if you claim the box contains a fairy who can fly and play the french horn and I challenge your claim, you will have a hard time. Proving god is more like the second scenario as there is zero physical evidence for his/her existence. Again, why should your Christian god be any different than Buddha, Vishnu, Kali, Zeuss, etc? None of the Christians have addressed this question. I only believe in one less god than you do and I use the same criteria to judge them all. You do too, where every other god is concerned. You just choose to abandon the logic and reason you use to discount Buddhism, Krishna, Hinduism, etc. when examining the Christian god. Why is that?

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Mr_Heatmiser 1 year, 6 months ago

Billybob, does the universe exist?

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Clyde 1 year, 6 months ago

What if I told you the box had air in it? We are all looking for truth. To know without a doubt that there is no god you would have to have seen ALL of the evidences. You cannot claim this, therefore, your atheism is illogical, It is only assumptions you base your atheism on. Your atheism is untenable.... You must admit that agnosticism is more logically viable. If you admit that, we can discuss my faith.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

I have seen zero evidence for any gods. According to your arguement, you should be agnostic as well since you haven't seen ALL evidences and you are basing your position on assumptions.

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USTPC 1 year, 6 months ago

I have never understood atheism and their belief that there is not a God that created the Universe. This requires greater faith than believing in a higher power. For to believe that there is no God means that you believe that something came from nothing. You believe that the thousands of different animals, insects, and plants all evolved from one single living cell.

Athiests say there is no evidence of God and yet none of them has ever created something from nothing. The fact that the universe exists, that we exist is evidence that there is a higher power.

People want to feel good about themselves and be able to do whatever they want without guilt. As a result they choose to believe there is no God or that God was only a creator and not a savior or that the Bible is wrong and as long as they are a basically a good person they will still get to heaven.

It is easy to not believe in God or heaven or hell because then you do not have to worry about the consequences of your actions while here on earth.

I believe in God as both the creator and savior. I believe that Jesus came to earth and died on the cross for our sins. I believe that there is a heaven and a hell and in the end we are going to one or the other. That is called Faith.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

You think atheists don't believe actions have consequences? You think atheists reject religion so they can do whatever they want? If you are a decent person who treats others well, what is there to feel guilty over?

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revolutionnow 1 year, 6 months ago

How do you define "a decent person who treats others well" without some kind of example?

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 6 months ago

I would rather believe that there IS a Heaven and a Hell, accept Jesus as my Savior and believe that he died for my sins and was raised on the third day... and if I'm wrong, and I cease to exist when I die, or come back as something else, oh well... BUT for those who chose to believe that there is no God, Heaven or Hell and then they die and find out that they were wrong... they'd be in a Hell of a mess... literally!

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

What if the Muslims are right? If they are, you will be going to hell as a Christian.

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Clyde 1 year, 6 months ago

I have evidences, but they cannot lead to 100% proof or else all could be forced to believe. But, if there is enough evidence, I do believe. You asked if I am agnostic...No... because I make choices. Though it is possible for my faith to be proven wrong, I still rest on the evidences and draw logical conclusions.

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

If you draw logical conclusions based on evidence, I'm assuming you believe evolution is true then.

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Clyde 1 year, 6 months ago

I believe in truth. I have seen zero evidence that evolutuion is real. Does any agnostic bother to look in the dictionary to what truth actually means?

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billybob 1 year, 6 months ago

So you dismiss the fossil record, volume upon volumes of work by biologists, botanists and archaeologists, reams of observable data in favor of a 2000 year old collection of books that features a talking snake, a talking donkey, and a talking shrub. You totally just went against your claim that you draw logical conclusions based on evidence. There is more than ample hard evidence for evolution. It is not even debated in scientific circles. It's as settled as the earth being round. How can you claim any sort of credibility when you reject it.

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albanyherald1 1 year, 6 months ago

Poor Billyboob. At it again. I've said it before, yall. You can't win them all. Don't waste your breath arguing with him. There will come a day when he will call upon the name of the Lord, perhaps on his deathbed. All we can do is pray for his soul.

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Clyde 1 year, 6 months ago

As will we all albanyherald1, our day WILL come when we will answer to Him and all I can say or ask is for God to have mercy on us all. I agree and will do just that, pray for brother billybob. Thanks for your words of wisdom. :)

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